Please watch my child sleep video on how to cope when your older child won’t sleep in her/his own bed.
To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question is from a mother named Amy, who’s having some problems with her four-year-old daughter. She writes:
“I have a four year old daughter who will not go to bed until I go to bed with her. She wakes up in the night screaming and will not go back to sleep until I lay down with her or she comes in to sleep with me. Even when I am in bed with her she hangs on to me all night long so that I will not leave. What can I do”
Good question Amy! First of all, when you are dealing with a four year old, there are a lot of things that you can try with her. One idea is to set up a reward chart (you always want to keep things positive) and I would make a list for the bed time routine. Start with a bath and then jammies, brushing teeth, reading a couple of stories and then climbing into her own bed. Make each step have a reward so if she cooperates and gets into the bath she can put on a little check mark or a little star sticker, and then jammies, and finally into bed, so that it is all nice and positive. You can also make a separate reward for sleeping all night in her own bed.
It is important to start out small with rewards. You do not want to go for Mt. Everest, so first try only a reward if she sleeps all night without waking up. Just start with bed time. Going to sleep okay and without protest at bed time, would get a reward the next morning.
I would start by tucking her in and then sitting in a chair right beside her bed so you’re no longer running down to her. If she wants to hold hands or touch in some way, do it really intermittently. Let her hold your hand for another two nights and then withdraw it. Try to guide her toward something in her own bed (maybe a stuffed toy or a special blanket).
You want her to gradually become more and more confident in her own ability to go to sleep without you. Basically, she has convinced herself that she cannot sleep unless you are with her. We are very good at convincing ourselves of things such as “I cannot sleep unless I have my earplugs in.”, or “I cannot sleep unless I have my socks on”. Whatever the case, she can sleep without you. She just might not have the confidence yet.
So start out small; sit beside the bed until she falls asleep and do the same thing for three nights, no surprises, right by the bed.
For the night waking, gradually start to withdraw from her room. On night four, move to the middle of the room (less touching now) and spend three nights in the middle and then move to the door. There should be no more touching once you are at the door. With this age group it is important to sort of linger in the hallway so she can just see your feet or your legs for a couple of nights because you are around the corner. Then move right into the hall, and then down the hall a bit.
She may come out to see that you are there and that is fine one time. If she comes to check you say, “Yes, I am here and I will stay here until you are asleep. Don’t come out again.” If she comes out again there should be a consequence. Otherwise she is going to keep coming and keep coming and you are going to get frustrated.
So after one chance, you then would say “If you come out again I am going to have to close your door.” and then if she does, you just close her door for three minutes and then give her another chance. Each time she tests you, close the door a little bit longer. Start with three minutes, then five, seven and so on. Most children of any age do not like the idea of a door being closed on them especially if you are holding it on the other side. So it is a good consequence for her coming out. If you come out, I will close your door. I will not close your door all night, or lock you in but I definitely will hold the door closed for a certain amount of time until you realize that you may not come out and you may not check on me.
I would do the same thing with her night waking. Every time she shows up take her back to her bed and you sit in your chair. You are going to be up a few times the first few nights and it is going to take a while for her to get used to the idea of sleeping without you, but it can be done. It absolutely can be done.
By starting now, in a few weeks time she will be sleeping more independently. Bed time will be a positive thing and this is great for her because I have had clients with children as old as eight who are still sleeping with their parents. It had really become a problem because that child could have a sleep over, could not go to a sleepover, and could not go to summer sleepover camp because they did not feel confident. They do not think they will be able to sleep without their parents, so it really is a gift, to give her to give her confidence to do this on her own.
I hope that helps Amy and thanks for your question. Sleep well!
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